Sunday, March 29, 2015

Miss Republican

 I've been writing about the increasingly rightward drift of conservative Democratic 1st District representative Michelle Grisham, who I think is positioning herself to pull a Susana Martinez and ditch the Democratic Party to try to unseat one of our two Democratic senators, and today the Albuquerque Journal provides some of the details.

Grisham hanging with Republican congressman Kevin Yoder

Note that in this Journal account of recent votes in congress Grisham votes with conservative Republican Steve Pearce much more often than she does with Democrat Ben Lujan. Grisham not only voted against the budget put forth by the Progressive Caucus but also against one put forward by the Black Caucus, joining Pearce in opposing budgets that tend to the needs of the working class, which should be her natural constituency, instead of the wealthy. Lujan voted for both the Progressive and Black caucus budgets.

Incidentally, the Journal, a conservative, Republican paper, endorsed Grisham for re-election and always gives her plenty of favorable coverage in comparison to other Democrats.

This is copied directly from the Journal article.

Contact your legislators at the U.S. Capitol
Zip codes: House 20515, Senate 20510
Capitol operator: (202) 224-3121
Ben Ray Luján (D)
Steve Pearce (R)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)

BIPARTISAN HEALTH-CARE CHANGES: Voting 392 for and 37 against, the House on March 26 passed a bill (HR 2) drafted by Republican and Democratic leaders that would set higher reimbursement levels based on quality of care for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
The bill would also extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years on a budget of $39.7 billion and fund rural and urban community health centers for two years at a cost of $7.2 billion.

The bill is projected to cost $200 billion over 10 years, with $140 billion to be deficit spending.
$35 billion coming from Medicare premium hikes on well-off seniors and the remainder raised through a variety of fees and cost-cutting measures.

The bill also would apply “Hyde Amendment” restrictions on the funding of abortion services provided by community health centers.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it stands a chance of passage.


10-YEAR REPUBLICAN BUDGET: Voting 228 for and 199 against, the House on March 25 approved a 10-year Republican fiscal plan (H Con Res 27) that seeks to balance the federal budget by fiscal 2024.

This blueprint rules out tax increases and relies on mostly unspecified tax and spending cuts to reach balance, leaving decisions affecting trillions of dollars to House committees.

The GOP budget would reduce spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years through steps such as slashing domestic programs; converting Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and food stamps to state-run block-grant programs; repealing the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law; imposing work requirements onable-bodied adults as a condition of receiving certain federal benefits; devolving K-12 education programs to state and local governments; changing Medicare to a voucher program for persons now younger than 56 and repealing the Affordable Care Act without offering a specific replacement.

This budget would set 2016 federal spending at $3.79 trillion and provide $619 billion for defense.

It would reduce Highway Trust Fund payments to states; cut the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent; reduce the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and cut taxes on corporate profits earned overseas.

The budget anticipates that Congress will reform the tax code to finance its tax cuts but offers no specifics on how that should be done.

A yes vote was to adopt the Republican budget.


DEMOCRATIC BUDGET PLAN: By a vote of 160 for and 264 against, the House on March 25 defeated a Democratic budget that differed from the main GOP plan (H Con Res 27, above) by not seeking balance while spending far more for education, job training, early childhood intervention, scientific and medical research, transportation, infrastructure repair, environmental protection and other domestic programs.

This budget would continue the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other safety-net programs as presently structured while ending special-interest tax breaks in a way that would raise $1.8 trillion over 10 years from corporations and wealthy individuals.
The Democratic blueprint would keep defense spending within statutory budget caps.

A yes vote was to adopt the Democratic budget.


CONSERVATIVES’ BUDGET PLAN: Voting 132 for and 294 against, the House on March 25 defeated a 10-year budget authored by the conservative Republican Study Committee that would reach balance three years earlier than the mainstream GOP budget (H Con Res 27) would get there.

This plan proposed deep cuts in domestic discretionary spending and entitlement programs.
It would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and unlike the mainstream GOP budget, it offered a replacement healthcare law.

Also in contrast to the mainstream plan, the conservative budget stayed clear of off-budget tactics for increasing the Pentagon budget.

The entire $6.4 trillion that it proposed for military operations over 10 years would be subjected to the regular appropriations process.

A yes vote was to adopt the Republican Study Committee budget.


PROGRESSIVES’ BUDGET PLAN: Voting 96 for and 330 against, the House on March 25 defeated an alternative to H Con Res 27 (above) offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

With an emphasis on helping middle- and low-income families and workers, this so-called “People’s Budget” proposed to begin universal pre-K education, end tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, permanently extend the earned-income and child tax credits, raise taxes on the wealthy, increase funding for education and job-training programs, relieve student debt, increase spending to repair roads and bridges, raise the minimum wage and expand the use of renewable energy to address climate change.

This budget did not increase military spending or seek to reach balance over 10 years.


BLACK CAUCUS BUDGET PLAN: Voting 120 for and 306 against, the House on March 25 defeated an alternative to H Con Res 27 (above) offered by the Congressional Black Caucus.
This plan would reduce annual deficits by $1.9 trillion over 10 years while ending the sequester and robustly funding programs for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as programs to boost road and bridge construction, small businesses, manufacturing, affordable housing, job training, voting rights and the social safety net.

This plan would increase the minimum wage and raise taxes on the wealthy, and unlike the mainstream GOP budget, it would continue traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

A yes vote was to adopt the Black Caucus budget.


Martin Heinrich (D)
Tom Udall (D)

10-YEAR REPUBLICAN BUDGET: Voting 52 for and 46 against, the Senate on March 26 approved a Republican- drafted budget (S Con Res 11) for fiscal 2016-2025 that would boost military spending, repeal the Affordable Care Act, retain traditional Medicare, prohibit tax increases, slash spending for entitlement and domestic programs, convert Medicaid and food stamps to state-run block-grant programs and require an unspecified reform of the tax code.
This budget would reduce non-defense discretionary and entitlement spending by $4.7 trillion over 10 years with the aim of balancing the federal budget by 2025.

To help reach that goal, the budget requires $1.2 trillion in unspecified cuts in entitlement programs and assumes over $1 trillion in new revenue will materialize to replace revenue lost by repealing the 2010 health-care law.

A yes vote was to adopt the Republican budget.


STUDENT-LOAN REFINANCING: Voting 46 for and 53 against, the Senate on March 25 defeated an amendment to S Con Res 11 (above) that would allow up to 40 million borrowers to refinance their student loans down to interest rates prevailing in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Those now holding Stafford undergraduate loans at 6.8 percent or higher, for example, could refinance to 3.86 percent.

To offset its $5 billion-plus annual cost, the amendment would impose a 30 percent minimum tax on households with at least $1 million in income from salaries and/or investments.

A yes vote was to make room the 10-year GOP budget for student-loan refinancing.


Note: I've also written about Grisham doing things that could be intrepeted as trying to gain favor with Republicans, such as voting with them recently when they tried to hold Homeland Security funding hostage in an attempt to block immigration reforms President Obama had enacted by executive order, or when she snubbed the president by attending a speech organized by Republicans by Israeli Prime minister Bibi Netanyahu intended to embarrass the president and to undermine his negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program..

Grisham also posts pictures to her Facebook page of herself schmoozing with congressional Republicans.

Grisham and Republican Rep Frank Lucas

Grisham and Republican Rep Kevin Yoder

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Post Melissa Deindustrialization

I'd gone for an evening ride on my new 2000 Moto Guzzi motorcycle with my then girlfriend Melissa on the back. We ended up crusing through downtown Kenosha when I noticed we were riding along a brand new trolley car line.

I was living in Kenosha, WI, in the late 90s and early 00s. I'd ended up in Wisconsin when I moved to Racine, a few miles north of Kenosha, to move in with Sandy, a woman I met on the internet. If you saw her, you'd understand. If you'd spent the night with her, you'd start packing. Why is it that the more beautifual a woman is the more uninhibited she is in bed? I don't know, but it's true. But when that ended, there I was, in Wisconsin. I'd gotten a pretty good job driving local in the Chicago area and had actually bought a house in Kenosha, a big hundred year old hip roofed house that looked like an old farm house the town had grown up around, that someone had converted to a duplex at some point.

Joseph McCarthy Transit center - looking toward downtown - across vacant lots

The trolley tracks made a little loop around the downtown lakefront area, which is practically deserted except for the city's lakefront development project with "upscale housing" and hopefully someday shopping and includes a marina full of sail boats owned mostly by people from the Chicago area who summer or live in Wisconsin. Kenosha, on Lake Michigan, has become basically a big bedroom community. It's at the far north end of the greater Chicago area and 40 percent of the the people of Kenosha work in Illinois.

It didn't used to be like that. Kenosha used to be a two-fisted, smoky Lake Michigan port, full of industry and economic activity, one of those old industrial towns you see all over the Midwest that's fallen, as they say, on hard times. Before deindustrialization. Deunionization. Outsourcing. Reaganomics. Jobs shipped overseas.

Those cities, for awhile anyway, tried various ways to revitalize themselves. They tried to recruit new industry, with land incentives and tax free economic districts and promises in lieu of taxes schemes. Downtowns were converted to pedestrian malls to try to bring back shoppers from the malls and big box stores. Sometimes they built convention centers, like the infamous one in Flint, MI, featured in Michael Moore's breakout movie Roger and Me, that drew no conventions and closed in a few years leaving the city even deeper in debt.

American Motors site
I followed the trolley tracks to the trolley garage, the nice new building in a post modern style pictured above. Along the front were big glass windows through which you could see the trolley garage and the brightly colored trolley cars parked inside. As we cruised past, something made me slam on the brakes. The name on the building. The Joseph McCarthy Transit Center.

Melissa saw it, too. We sat there in silence, staring.

Although she'd grown up in Mexico City, Melissa, having an American father, had dual citizenship. She'd lived in San Francisco. She was more what I thought of as world citizen. She was of the upper class and identified herself more as that than a citizen of any country. In my time with her I gained a lot of insight into that class of people. What was good for her was good. She had no moral compass whatsoever, except in an abstract intellectual sense. She told me how she had gone with her mother to take soup to the striking students in Mexico City in 1968. She was a Leftist, except when she wasn't.

But she was well informed about the US, especially its politics and culture. She knew who Joe McCarthy was and what the the McCarthy Era had been. It had gotten its name from Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy who'd chaired one of two congressional committees, senate and house, that had conducted highly publicized Communist witch hunts in the 1950s. The committees were in practice part of Capitalism's efforts to roll back the New Deal. They were convened to root Communists out of the government -- i.e. holdovers from the Roosevelt Administration, those nasty people who came up with things like Social Security and Unemployment Insurance and created millions of jobs to get the US out of the Depression -- but the hearings ended up focusing on Hollywood and going after the many left leaning writers, actors and directors there.

American Brass workers in Kenosha
The committee members would ask those "hauled before the committee" if they were now or had ever been a member of the communist party. If they said yes, they'd be ordered to name other members.

If you refused to name names you were held in contempt, thrown in jail, and blacklisted from Hollywood. Those who didn't name names included folk singer Pete Seeger, writer Ring Lardner Jr., composer Elmer Bernstein, and the people who got together to make the iconic movie Salt of the Earth (now on youtube) about a strike at Empire Zinc Company's mine in Bayard, New Mexico, which is a good movie but is iconic primarily because it was made by people who were on the Blacklist.

If you named names, as did people like Walt Disney, or then president of the screen Actors Guild Ronald Reagan, or Burl Ives, director Elia Kazan, and writer Budd Schulberg, you were never forgotten by people on the Left, and never forgiven.

The hearings destroyed many careers and a few lives. The McCarthy Era still holds great symbolic importance for Leftists and is brought up any time anyone tries to argue that a little bit of security is worth giving up a little bit of liberty.

If you Google the Joseph McCarthy Transit center you find other people who've had the same reaction as Melissa and I did. They stop, take pictures and post them on their blogs with comments like "the only anti Communist transit center in America."

Except that it's not named after that Joe McCarthy after all, I've learned. It's named after a Jospeh McCarthy who'd directed the Kenosha Transit Department and who'd died of a heart attack while out rollerblading with his wife, whose dedications call him a "visionary," and who had come up with the idea for a trolley through downtown Kenosha.

Which is still deserted. If you drive around Kenosha you still drive by huge, open grassy areas where American Brass used to be, or where American Motors used to be, where union built Ramblers, AMC Javelins and Gremlins were made, and before those the Nash Rambler, considered the first compact car and a milestone car of the once formidable US auto industry.

1717 75th St today - the front porch was a nice place to have breakfast

Note: Being president of American Motors meant you were a prominent person. A past AMC president, George Romney, would later become Michigan's governor, and father to a kid named Mitt.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1st District Rep. Michelle Grisham Votes With Republicans Again

Ambitious DINO May Be Eying A US Senate Seat

(Updated below at 3/27/15 10:21 a.m.)

Michelle Grisham is looking more like a Republican every day.

Yesterday she joined the GOP to vote down a Democratic budget put forth by the congressional Progressive Caucus that would have raised the federal minimum wage, given federal retirees back the money she voted to cut last year, increased child nutrition funding, restored food stamp cuts she voted for last year, and asked the rich to start contributing to our country again by putting their taxes back where they were when Bill Clinton was president -- not much to ask at all. 

Grisham joined people like right wingers Steve Pearce and Dana Rohrabacher in putting down the Democrats' alternative to the bloodthirsty Republican budget -- which based on yesterday's vote she presumably prefers -- that will gut our living standard and slash a multitude of programs for the needy to give tax breaks to the super rich. Although not all Democrats voted for the People's Budget, a majority did, but not Grisham.

Eyes On The US Senate?

Grisham's behavior could be simply that of a conservative Democrat until you consider it as a whole and in light of the political situation she faces in New Mexico.

Recall that recently -- March 2 -- Grisham voted with Republicans when they tried to use Homeland Security funding to block immigration reforms enacted by President Obama by executive order, a move that given the Democratic Party's demographic makeup is hard to fathom unless it was to ingratiate herself with Republicans intent on embarrassing the president at every opportunity.

Grisham has changed her Facebook photo to one of her wearing the red jacket traditionally worn by Republican women. Her snubbing of President Obama last month to attend a speech by Israel's hard right prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen by some as pandering to deep pocketed campaign financiers. Grisham never utters the word "union" in public and has taken various other measures to distance herself from traditional Democrats and increase her fund raising potential, such as making frequent photo op appearances at large New Mexico businesses and repeatedly sponsoring legislation she then trumpets at "bipartisan," which given the uncompromising, extreme right wing nature of today's Republican Party means it's conservative legislation by definition.

An ethnic Hispanic, Grisham is aware of how Susana Martinez won high office -- Martinez beat a fellow Democrat to get elected district attorney on her way to the governorship by switching parties and running as a Republican, thereby splitting the Latino Democratic vote and picking up all the Republican vote. Grisham may see such a move as her only chance to unseat one of New Mexico's two Democratic senators, who are likely to hold their offices until they die or decide to retire -- unless Grisham runs as a Republican against one of them. If Grisham does have her eye on a US senate seat she's making all the right moves.

Update: Sure as shinola, Grisham sent out a fundraising appeal this morning that touts her "bipartisanship". Note that it doesn't criticize Republicans, only tea baggers. There's no mention of the Progressive Caucus budget that she voted down.

Dear Franklin, 
One step forward: Bipartisan passage of Medicare "Doc Fix" bill
One step back: The Tea Party Budget
Only this isn't square dancing.
I ran for Congress on the promise of building a stronger economy for all…but time and again, the Tea Party members of Congress do all they can to undermine any progress we’ve made. On Wednesday, the House passed a Tea Party budget that would give millionaires and billionaires a tax break while putting the burden on working class families.
If we’re to continue to fight back and defeat these unfair budgets, I need your continued support to stay in Congress.

Not only does the Tea Party budget raise taxes on working class families, it also:
  • Cuts funding for education,
  • Devastates Medicare and Medicaid,
  • Does nothing to rebuild our nation's crumbling infrastructure.
This budget was so extreme that the House majority even had a hard time passing it out of committee! New Mexico seniors, veterans and families can’t afford another Tea Party Congress.
Please donate whatever you can - $50, $25, $10 - before March 31st.
We need more steps forward and fewer steps back.
Thanks for your support,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another Middle East Country Down The Drain, Another US Policy Failure

As Yemen disintegrates before our eyes, it's time once again to point out the fact of the colossal failure of US Middle East policy. Initiated by George W Bush and continued unabated by Barak Obama, it has left the region in ruins, and, as many on the Left warned it would at its onset -- the launching of the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq -- has caused an explosion of radical Islamic terrorism.

Supporters of anti-U.S. Houthi rebels, Sanaa, Yemen, 1/28. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty)
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria are destroyed. The US did the first three itself, leaving behind failed states on a colossal level, and achieved the fourth with a proxy opposition in Syria. The US wages drone warfare on Somalia and Yemen. Somalia has been overrun by terrorists and Yemen is now in civil war.

The orange jump suits of the ISIS executioners are meant to recall the Muslim men the US has been torturing for over a decade at its Guantanamo Bay torture camp. The young men and women who are flocking to the Middle East to join what they see as a struggle for survival by Middle Easterners and Muslims are well aware of who their enemy is.

In a brief article Chicago attorney and De Paul University professor Leonard Goodman lays out why they hate us, not for our freedoms but for our violent Middle East policies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Payback Time

American supporters of Israel's Zionist project to eradicate Palestinians from their native land are aghast at the first real pushback against Israel by a US president in decades, as President Obama and various members of his administration take advantage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu's demagogic campaign rhetoric to tee off on Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Although the Obama Administration has been somewhat outspoken in its criticism of Israel's relentless and ongoing theft of Palestinian land via settlement building, it has for the most part adhered to the Washington Consensus of unconditional support for Israel as it ethnically cleanses Palestine.

But it appears to be payback time for Netanyahu, who has slighted the president in various ways in word and deed during Obama's tenure including with last month's speech before a joint session of congress that Republicans used to publicly embarrass the president -- that was boycotted by NM Senator Martin Heinrich but which NM Rep Michelle Grisham  used to ingratiate herself with the Zionist Lobby by publicly snubbing the president.

For Grisham and the other Democratic members of congress who turned their backs on their president and party's leader by attending the speech and demonstrated their subservience to the Zionist Lobby the payback can't come soon enough.

Anita Darian

Multi-talented soprano Anita Darian, who provided the unforgettable counter-melody in The Tokens 1961 number one hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight,  died last month in Long Island, NY. I'd become curious about who the singer was on that song and looked it up a few weeks ago, and last night when I went to look up her name again learned of her Feb 1 death from complications during surgery.

Anita Darian during a 1962 Showboat cast recording

Darian, of Armenian descent and born in 1927 in Detroit, had a long and varied career that included Broadway, top opera companies and a solo recording career.

The song The Lion Sleeps Tonight, by the way, also has a long and varied career. Composed by a South African named Solomon Linda and first recorded by him in 1939, it was discovered and brought to America by Pete Seeger and has been recorded many, many times. I have to admit that I went on an iTunes buying binge one night and downloaded about 40 or 45 different versions of it. It was fun hearing the different ways people have done the song and I would have liked to set up some kind of a deal where I was woken up by a different version every morning. They are all good, especially some of the a capella ones; it's just a great song and apparently almost impossible to do badly. My favorite version is still The Tokens original 1961 recording, in no small part because of Darian, but not only that.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Telesur Article About US Government Efforts To Destgabalize Leftist Latin American Governments

An article at the Telesur (see note below) web site lays out a lot of what the US government does these days in terms of its efforts to destabilize Leftist Latin American governments. I've written about those efforts many times. They are talked about often in the Leftist media, but this article assembles a lot of it one one place and provides specific examples. Some of this makes it into the mainstream media sometimes; for example The New York Times might mention it in an article deep in the paper once in awhile. It's not a big secret except to most Americans.

Much of the US government's destabilizing work is done through a few agencies that are part of the State Department, such asThe United States Agency For International Development, USAID, and the National Endowment For Democraqcy, NED.

If you have any doubts about the ideological bent of US policy toward Latin American governments that are experimenting with Leftist or Socialist economic models, just consider the board of directors of the NED. It includes people like Elliot Abrams, a key Neocon in the Reagan and both Bush administrations who was involved trying to overthrow Nicaragua, Robert Zoellick, anotyher Bushie who served time as the president of the World Bank which has transitioned into one of the primary ways Neoliberalism (Reaganomics) is being imposed on developing countries, famed right wing author Francis Fukiyama and Moises Naim, a Venezuelan official during the days of pre Hugo Chavez oligarchic rule in that country. As I've mentioned her many times, Venezuela is one of the primary targets of destabilization efforts and the old oligarchy is the primary tool the US uses there. It controls most of the media there and is still very much in business despite some limited nationalization efforts by the Chavez and Maduro governments. The nationalizations get a lot of attention in US mainstream media which never mentions the oligarchy.

This article says that a lot of what the US government used to do clandestinely through agencies like the CIA it now does openly through agencies like NED and USAID. That might be so, but I don't believe the CIA doesn't have things going on in those countries. An agency like that doesn't just shrivel up and go away and has to keep justifying itself.

Just this week Ecuador's president Raphael Correa was talking about CIA involvement in organizing anti-government protests in his country.

US meddling in Latin America is almost as old as the US is, and few examples are listed in the article. It's important to not, though, that the meddling has always had a marked conservative ideological bent. We overthrow Leftists and install conservatives and fascists.

Similarly, in domestic affairs the US government (and many large law enforcement agencies) spy on, infiltrate, suppress, and beat the crap out of protesters and activists on the Left, and environmentalists, but leave right leaning groups and individuals pretty much alone. Recall how when the tea baggers had a big confab in Washington DC a few years back and they were running around with assault rifles and bis pistols strapped to their hips. There was hardly any law enforcement presence there at all. The difference is that the tea baggers are big supporters of Capitalism and its mission to get everyone's money and destroy the planet along the way.

Note: Telesur is funded primarily by the Venezuelan government, plus a few other Latin American governments. It's similar to Al Jazeera in that regard; it's not bad journalism but it's not going to say anything bad about the host governments, and it's propaganda in the way CNN or the New York Times are American propaganda. There's a lot of selective reporting in those, and you read something in them and either believe it or not. Like Al Jazeera, Fox News or CNN, Telesur employs actual professional journalists and is similar to them in the quality of the journalism. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Robin Hood Tax

Class consciousness: Identification with other members of one's own class and awareness of its relationship with other classes. According to Marxist theory, the proletariat will assume class consciousness when workers realize that they are being exploited by the bourgeoisie; then a proletarian revolution will be inevitable. Contrary to this theory, however, the American working class is primarily socially conservative. (

Olivia de Havilland, Erroll Flynn, 1938

There's a new push to institute a tax on Wall Street financial transactions, the buying and selling of stocks. Some are referring to it as a Robin Hood Tax. There's a #RobinHoodTax Twitter hash tag.

In my house in the 1950s we watched a television series called The Adventures of Robin Hood that I've long thought of as the beginnings of my own class consciousness. I remember Robin Hood and his band of men as stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and it giving a healthy backhand to the class system in England.

Perhaps there was some Liberal Democratic parental interpretation going on while we watched, because seeing what's on the internet about that series, it wasn't a subversive Socialist propaganda tool but had more of a TV western good guys versus bad guys theme, which I've probably misremembered according to my own biases. I even misremembered the words to the theme song for the program.

There's a lot on the internet about the legend of Robin Hood, however, and its various screen adaptations, even some right wing harping that the legend has been "polluted" by the Left to legitimize the horrors of redistribution, but it's understood by almost everyone who writes about Robin Hood that he indeed stole from the rich and gave to the poor. But I don't see where the Left has really latched onto Robin Hood as a propaganda tool, and it should. Perhaps the theming of the Wall Street transaction tax is the beginning. The concept began in the UK in 2010 and is being promoted here by people like Minnesota Democratic Rep Keith Ellison, one of the few legitimate Liberals left in congress, who has re-introduced a Robin Hood Tax bill.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia article about Robin Hood has this to say about the surname Hood:

 The surname "Hood" (or Hude or Hode etc.) was also fairly common because it referred either to a Hooder, who was a maker of hoods; or alternatively to somebody who wore a hood as a head-covering. Unsurprisingly, therefore, reference is made to a number of people called "Robert Hood" or "Robin Hood" in medieval records. Some of these individuals are even known to have fallen afoul of the law.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The End Of The "Two State Solution"?

During the just completed Israeli election's last days as Benjamin Netanyahu desperately sought votes he made some racist comments about Palestinians and announced he would never agree to a "two state solution."

Israel has always used the cover of negotiations with the Palestinians for the creation of a Palestinian state as cover to announce more settlement building and thus steal more Palestinian land. Some commentators are saying Benjamin's come from behind win may have a good side, including unmasking the fiction -- perpetuated for years by Israel and the US -- that Israel was ever serious about negotiating for a "two-state" solution to the Palestinian question.

This section from an article in Mint Press News summarizes some of the commentary going around:

As veteran independent journalist Robert Parry explains the dynamic, Netanyahu’s latest maneuvers have done the important job of “unmasking” the deceit of Israel’s position on the so-called “Peace Process”—birthed by the Oslo Accords in 1993—which has held the two-state solution as its perpetual and unattainable prize. According to Parry:

The truth is that the two-state solution has been a fiction for at least the past two decades, dying in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the two-state illusion still served important political purposes both for Israelis, who would pay it lip service while continuing their steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, and for U.S. politicians who could point to the mirage as an excuse not to pressure Israel too hard on its human rights violations.
Yet, whenever any U.S. official actually tried to reach that shimmering oasis of a two-state solution, it would recede into the distance. Then, the Israelis would rely on their friends and allies in the news media and politics to blame the Palestinians. Now, however, the illusion of Israel seeking such an outcome in good faith has been lost in Netanyahu’s anything-goes determination to keep his office – a case of political expediency trumping strategic expediency.
Writing at Mondoweiss, Avigail Abarbanel, an Israeli-born activist and author living abroad, expressed a response similar to Munayyer’s regarding Netanyahu’s reelection. “So he won and I have to say I am relieved,” Abarbanel explained. “There wll be no more endless cycles of pointless ‘negotiations’ with Israel pretending that some day it will agree to a two-state solution while continually escalating both settlement (colony) building and the maltreament of the Palestinians. Now everyone will see that the Palestinians were right all along and that Israel has never been a partner for negotiations.”

Some supporters of Palestine also point to the strained relations between Israel and the Obama Administration as a sign of hope.

President Obama and most people in the Washington establishment are aware that the goal of Zionism, sometimes but most often not uttered aloud, has always been to drive the Arab inhabitants of historic Palestine from all their land and went along with the fiction of negotiations for a variety of reasons, the most important being the influence of the Israeli Lobby in US elections, and Israel's role as a friendly colonial outpost in the Middle East.

There is a solution to the problems of Israel that is sometimes offered up by idealists like Ali Abunima, editor of the Electronic Intifada online news magazine -- a one state solution, a single, democratic country where Jews and Arabs, including those Arabs driven from Palestine in 1948 and their descendants, are equal citizens.

But Israel and the Zionist project still have many enablers in the US, such as members of New Mexico's federal legislative delegation Michelle Grisham, Ben Lujan, Tom Udall and Steve Pearce, who demonstrated their subservience to the Israeli Lobby by attending Netanahu's speech before a joint session of congress last month, Grisham with a local rabbi in tow.

These people must be pressured to do the right thing and stop giving the Zionist project of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine their unconditional support, and people like Senator Martin Heinrich who have shown signs of doing so must be supported when they do, and be encouraged to be open and unambiguous in their support for justice in Palestine.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Privatization Under The Democrats

As Chicago's mayoral race heats up people are assembling data on "1 percent Rahm" Emanual (as he's called by a Chicagoan I follow on Twitter) the Neoliberal (ie Reaganomics) Democratic incumbent and former Obama Administration chief of staff.

 This graphic is from an In These Times an article How To Sell A City laying out some of Emmanuel's vast privatization accomplishments.

After I wrote an earlier post about this race in which I talked about his challenger, who would be Chicago's first Latino mayor, I considered writing a post about why I'd be interested in the Chicago mayor's race. I grew up in the greater Chicago area, across the lake in rural Michigan, and most of the media I was exposed to was Chicago media, and there were many Chicago ex pats living around me including some of my main drinking buddies who were Irish Catholic Democrats. Also, the election is a test case for whether people are going to get the message about Neoliberal Democrats and send it to the political establishment. The transition of the Democratic Party to a Neoliberal Reaganomics party has been gradual and ushered in by slick talking social liberals like Bill Clinton and people really never noticed, I don't think.

Maybe our NM elected officials didn't either. I wish just one New Mexico legislator would stand up and make a clean break from Reaganomics, but so far they are all still firmly on board with it and it's turning America into a third world country very quickly now. Democrats allied with Republicans are now trying to push through this Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, TPP, which is an updated version of NATFA for the Pacific rim, and another one with Europe, before Obama leaves office. NAFTA, recall, which devastated the American industrial base and small farming in Mexico sending millions north looking for work, was passed under Clinton, because Democrats are able to hold back the natural opponents of something like that.

I hope the people get the message and rise up, and when they do Democrats will change their spots in a big hurry, but Democrats could take it upon themselves to (a) stop selling us out to Reaganomics and (b) inform and organize against it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

South America Condemns Obama Administration Interference In Venezuela

UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, condemned today the Obama Administration's latest attempts to destabilize its Socialist neighbor, calling it an illegal interference in Venezuelan sovereignty. The US has been actively trying to destabilize and bring about regime change in Venezuela since it backed an unsuccessful 2002 coup against former president Hugo Chavez. The US spends millions every year organizing and supporting Venezuelan opposition groups representing the country's oligarchy.

UNASUR, along with CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, have replaced the US dominated OAS (Organization of American States) as the vehicles for international cooperation in Latin America. Both were initiated by Chavez.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald has an article explaining that the most recent US intervention in Venezuela -- the president's formal declaration this week that Venezuela poses a threat to the US, which is a legal precondition for more sanctions -- is not about human rights at all, as the US government pretends, but is about (a) Venezuela being an oil rich country that doesn't submit to US dictates and (b) Venezuela with its redistributive (socialist, to be clear) policies setting an example that "petrifies" ruling elites in countries like the US who are pushing Neoliberalism, aka Reaganomics, down the throats of their citizens.

Greenwald also compares US policy toward Venezuela with its policy toward Saudi Arabia, where women aren't allowed to drive and there are daily public beheadings that are simply ignored by the same US media that daily misreports conditions in Venezuela.

Here's the "unofficial" English translation of today's UNASEUR statement provided by the quasi-independant Venezuelan state news agency Telesur:

UNASUR Statement (Unofficial translation)

The member States of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) manifest their rejection of the Executive Order issued on March 9, 2015 by the government of the United States of America, for it constitutes a threat of interference against sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in other States' affairs.

The UNASUR Member States ratify their commitment with the application of International Law, Peaceful Resolution of Disputes and the principle of Non-Intervention, and calls upon governments to withhold the use of coercive unilateral measures that violate international law.
UNASUR reiterates its request to the United States' government to evaluate and implement dialogue with Venezuela as an alternative, under the basis of respecting sovereignty and self-determination of the people. Consequently, we request the derogation of the Executive Order.

Quito, March 14, 2015.

Killer Seat Belts

I've always thought seat belts to be unnecessary and dangerous devices, and now it seems that statistics prove it. This is a paragraph from an article in Overdrive, a trucking industry publication.

A recent federal teleconference highlighted that 33 percent of truckers who died in 2012 crashes had skipped seat belts, but up to 40 percent would have lived if they had buckled up.

Let me break that down. First it says that in 33 percent of fatalities the driver wasn't wearing a seat belt. Which means that in 66 percent of fatal accidents, twice as many, the driver had a seat belt on. It looks like wearing a seat belt doubles your chances of being killed.

The next part of the sentence tells us that "up to 40 percent would have lived if they had buckled up." Which leaves 60 percent who are alive because they didn't.

To be honest, the statistics aren't all there. The ones given are meaningless because there's no indication of what percentage of drivers wear seat belts and what percent doesn't. If, for example, only 1 percent of drivers aren't wearing seat belts but that 1 percent is involved in 33 percent of the fatalities, that would be saying something.

My concern with seat belts -- besides the trouble they require to put on and besides the fact that when I lean over to get something off the floor or on the console they try to choke me --  has always been that when you put one on, you're essentially saying to yourself, "I'm going to get into an accident so I'd better have this seat belt on." You're demonstrating to yourself the fact that there's a chance you're going to be in an accident.

If' you're not going to get into an accident, there's no point in wearing a seat belt.

People will say, 'Well, you never know.' But you do, if you can drive in a way that you won't.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Netanyahu Is On His Way Out As Israel's Prime Minister

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, riding high 10 days ago when he addressed the US congress in a much ballyhooed speech designed to boost his re-election campaign, appears headed for defeat in Isreli elections to be held Tuesday. After a two point "bounce" from the speech, successive polls have been showing support for Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party relentlessly declining, and polls released today (Friday, March 13), four days before the vote, the last day in Israel polls can be published before an election, are the worst yet for Netanyahu and have his party losing too many seats to be able to form a government.

The leading vote getter will be Zionist Union, a recently formed coalition of the centrist Labour Party and Hatnuah, headed by Tzipi Livni. Livni, formerly of Likud, then of Kadima, the Likud offshoot formed by Ariel Sharon, has in the past couple of years shifted leftward in her views on Palestine and on economics and reflects the views of many Israelis who are fed up with Likud's economic policies, and who see Israel's declining international support on the Palestinian issue as a threat to the country's survival.

Netanyahu called early elections in December after he fired Livni, who was the justice minister in his coalition government, and finance minister Yair Lapid, who heads liberal secular party Yesh Atid, after they differed with Netahyahu on a law being debated that would have legalized Israel as a "Jewish state" and is part of a trend toward further enshrining in law Israel's apartheid nature. Palestinians not ethnically cleansed from what's now Israel in 1948 when Israel was formed make up 20 percent of Israel's citizens and are subject to a variety of social and legal discrimination.

Netanyahu's speech to congress about Iran and Israel's security was seen as fear-mongering in Israel, where peoples' main concern is the economy, which is like the US economy on steroids. Like the US and its European allies, Israel has embraced Reganomics, or Neoliberalism, and has become vastly unequal. It's now hard for the average Tel Aviv resident to pay rent.

Especially young Israelis are disgusted that they're looking forward to a future of low paying, temporary employment, which is the kind of economy Reganomics is designed to bring about and is what the US is becoming, although more gradually than has happened in Israel.

Note: This Haaretz article gives an overview of the reasons for Netanyahu's rapid downfall, the main one being he has ignored the economy. Israel has a parliamentary system, which means the party that wins the most seats Tuesday in Israel's knesset (parliament) will name the next prime minister and form the new government, and the article also discusses how that might play out. As can be imagined it's a pre-occupation in the Israeli media. Israel's politics have become increasingly factionalized and no party wins an outright majority any more and must form a coalition government with smaller parties, sometimes with opposing ideological views on Palestine and other issues.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Phrophetic Travel

Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.

I first heard that quote a couple weeks ago, made a note of it in my cell phone and came across it last night as I was clearing out notes I've made on my cell phone, which was full of songs, podcasts, books, pictures and notes.

Many of the notes I make to myself as I'm driving make no sense to me later, such as:


That first quote, though, is all over the internet and is usually attributed to the Prophet Mohamed (peace be with him) and is used manly on the web sites of people who love to travel and write and read and dream about traveling. Rick Steves, the PBS travel guru, used the idea of the benefits of travel to give a little backhand to Sarah Palin after she talked about travel as if it was elitist or something.

The wisdom of what the quote is actually saying is taken up on the blog of a lawyer in Saskatoon, Canada, Ted Koskie, who argues that while travel has benefits, it isn't better than or a good substitute for education. Koskie also points out that travel is available mainly to people who can afford it, and to people from countries like Canada who want to go to places that don't place the same kind of restrictions on visitors that Canada does, and whose people might have to post a huge bond to get into the Canada if they can get in at all. All of which applies to the US, too.

Koskie's line of thinking somewhat parallels mine. I've always loved to travel and wish others to do it but when I've thought about the ways in which my travels have benefited me -- what kind of wisdom, what knowledge have I gained?  -- I haven't come up with very much, and revert to a quote from John Steinbeck who, in his book Travels With Charley, observed of truck drivers that "They travel over the country without being part of it."

There are those people who seem to be able to grasp things very quickly and sum them up in a sentence or two, but I'm not one of them. I compare the perceptions I get of various places I've traveled to to the first impressions I have of a place when I move there. I know no one and tend to project onto the people a somewhat romanticized character. I see all the beauty and uniqueness of the place and am enthralled by it. I enjoy being in a strange place. I don't think of the people as having the capacity to be mean and small, like people everywhere else, because I haven't seen that in them.

My first impressions gradually fade as I learn about the people and their history and how the society there operates. It takes me five years or more before I even begin to know enough about the new place I'm living in to begin to understand it. Someone who reads more and talks to more people than I do might do this faster, or someone who has thought about how to think about new places and how to get at the heart of what they are like.

Travel does however touch something deep inside us, as they say. Our nomadic past, perhaps. It allows us to imagine new possibilities that the realities of a place we know too well haven't curtailed. It's certainly interesting and entertaining, and exciting sometimes. It may give a perspective of the nation and of the world that we didn't have before and may not be consciously aware of after we get it. Some of my best memories, my greatest triumphs, are from tavel. It satisfies a yearning to know, and for that reason alone it's of value.

Just the act of being mobile seems soothing. How often have we gone for a ride to cool off, think things over? Families used to go for a proverbial "Sunday drive" after church, as much to let the demons clear out as they knew they'd somehow end up at Dairy Queen.

The education versus travel quote at the top of the post isn't in the Koran, by the way, and the Prophet Mohamed didn't say it, according to, an internet web site that took up a question posed by a reader. The internet web site goes on to say that while there's lot of good information about Islam on the internet, the internet isn't the best place to learn about the Koran. If that's true, the quote is most likely in the Koran and the Prophet Mohamed did say it, after all. Peace be with you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Europe Complains About US Aggression In Ukraine

European officials in an article in der Spiegel are expressing fear and anger about the US aggression in Ukraine that's destabilizing Europe and threatening nuclear war. They are complaining about NATO military head and US general Phillip Breedlove, and the US state department's assistant secretary for European affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover from the Bush era, repeatedly undermining their efforts to negotiate a peace between the US installed Ukraine government and eastern Ukrainians who want independence or closer ties with Russia.

You don't have to be a fan of Vladmir Putin to know the conflict in Ukraine is entirely the doing of the US. US undercover agents and state department officials helped organize and then publicly encouraged last year's violent street protests by right wing fascists and Eurocentric bourgeois elements in western Ukraine, maneuvered to scuttle a settlement European powers had negotiated to peaceably end the situation, handpicked Ukraine's new leaders, and then immediately recognized the illegitimate coup government.

US state department's Victoria Nuland handing out cookies to Ukrainian protesters

The US takeover of Ukraine by proxy, recall, follows several decades of  the encirclement of Russia by the US via NATO with former Soviet Republics being brought into NATO and then equipped with ballistic missiles, anti Russian defensive missiles and other modern US weaponry and with US advisers and troops.

It's a similar situation to the one with Iran where elements of the US power establishment would rather have war than peace, and in both cases it's directed against a countries, Russia and Iran, that haven't attacked anyone and pose no threat to anyone.

The der Spiegel article, which documents repeated instances of Breedlove lying about Russia's involvement in Ukraine, often timed to coincide with sensitiveness points in negotiations, is notable in that it represents a rare break with what has been a shameful mainstream media campaign to mischaracterize Ukraine as Russian aggression, and it tends to validate the way Ukraine has been portrayed from the beginning by some in the Left media, and here in my web log -- as US aggression.

Der Spiegel goes easy on President Obama, suggesting he can't control the war mongering neocons he's surrounded by -- or has surrounded himself with, you can argue -- in which case he's been out of control from day one as under his watch the US has been waging nonstop war and aggression. From backing the coup in Honduras and immediately recognizing that coup government, from continual efforts to destabalize Venezuela and illegally oust its legimitate democratically elected government, to the destruction of Libya, to the destruction of Syria, to his extra judicial assassinations by drone in Yemen and to Pakistan and elsewhere, to North Africa, to his "pivot to the east" with which he's using the same tactics the US used on Russia to encircle China, this has been one war mongering, violent, non peaceful, illegitimate president.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Union Busting Obama Ally Rahm Emanuel On The Ropes In Chicago Mayoral Re-election Race

Update: The Nation has something on this. It also reports different vote totals in the primary.

A Latino County Commissioner is reassembling the old Harold Washington coalition and is tied with Chicago's incumbent Neoliberal mayor Rahm Emanuel as they face an April 7 runoff.

Chicago for Chuy photo

In These Times reports on the race and the endorsement of Jesús “Chuy” García by Rev Jesse Jackson, a Chicago native whose Rainbow Coalition is headquartered there. García is a commissioner on the powerful Cook County Board. Chicago makes up much of Cook County.

Emanuel, a nominal Democrat and President Obama's first term chief of staff, in his first terms as mayor has attacked the Chicago teacher's union, closed scores of mostly minority neighborhood public schools and relentlessly pushed charter schools, a backdoor public school privatization scheme, and has worked to privatize many city services.  

García received 26 percent of the vote to Emanuel's 42 percent in a February primary that included a large field but is now even with Emmanuel in opinion polls. The winner of the April 7 runoff is expected to win the general election in November.

Chicago historically has had a large African American population. It has declined from a high of almost 50 percent in the 1970s to the mid 30s and the city is now now almost 30 percent Hispanic. García would be the city's first Hispanic mayor.

Former Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first Black mayor, is often cited for the coalition he assembled, uniting a divided Black community with Labor, Latinos and progressive whites to beat the powerful old Daley machine.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine Continues

While Republicans gave a boost to the Zionist prime minister's re-elections chances last week, devastation and ethnic cleansing in Palestine continue.

Gaza - Anne Paq / ActiveStills

Almost nothing in Gaza has been rebuilt since Israel's brutal slaughter this summer of more than 4,000 Palestinians, who are trapped inside the coastal enclave on three sides by Israel and a fourth by complicit US client state Egypt.

Only a trickle of the millions pledged for rebuilding efforts has materialized and Israel continues its brutal blockade of Gaza, keeping out building materials, medicines, agricultural supplies and all but a small ration of UN provided food. Tens of thousands of Gazans live in UN schools, tents, or among the rubble of their former homes.

West Bank home demolition - Yotam Ronen / ActiveStills

Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israel's ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestinian lands continues, with home demolitions, land confiscations and increasingly rapid settlement building especially in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian half of that town.

There was not a day in February that Israel troops didn't fire on Palestinian civilians, the UN reports.

Meanwhile our elected officials, who know what goes on in Palestine, for their own self interest let the Palestinians rot in hell.

Note: These photos are from a layout by online news magazine Electronic Intifada; The Month In Pictures: February.

Inferior Temporal Cortex Gone Wild

Muslim girls aren't forbidden to wear makeup, at least in some sects, and with the eyes discreetly highlighted and emphasized, and with the imagination left to fill in the blanks, compelled to, really, most of them filled in by a mix of unconscious impulses central to our being and to the survival of the species, well, you get the picture.

So what, I ask you, can get the synapses popping faster than a pretty Muslim woman in a veil? I think I may have found the answer: A Black female country music singer.

I didn't even know there was such a thing, but apparently there have been one or two, according to a piece about young Black Country singer Mickey Guyton in The Guardian, where -- another surprise -- they are big country music fans. Maybe the British got tired of populating the world with super-mega Rock and Roll stars.

But Country music, like it or not, is closely tied with the US South, and by both inference and design with the white supremicist barely disguised ever present until today good old boy redneck nature of the United States, which manifests itself not only internally but in a foreign policy based essentially on bombing and stealing from and taking over and exploiting and bossing around countries populated by brown people.

There's always been that race mixin' though, the allure of the forbidden and exotic that eventually overpower the prejudice and social constraint, that has always caused white men and women to cross the tracks at night and caused someone to be waiting and holding the back door open. Which you can now do in broad daylight without getting arrested and even, I hear, on TV.

All of it comes together, I'd say, in the person of Mickey Gurton, who also happens to be pretty talented. She has a strong if not highly schooled voice, a good deal of natural expressive ability with it, and apparently has some song writing talent, too. There's a youtube video of her at the White House singing the Patsy Cline classic Crazy to a surprised and delight President Barak and Michelle, and one of a newly released single that's apparently getting a lot of airplay. She's on the Capital label, which means sufficient promotion. The money boys in Nashville and at Capital Records must be wringing their hands with ironic glee.

Note: This blog, which appears to be written by a Muslim feminist, in a series of very short essays has some insights about what constitutes beauty, how it's a socially constructed concept and so forth, and how those things differ in our world and the Muslim world.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Updated below 3/8/15 11:45 am
                        3/10/15 3:45  pm

I've been using the new Mac operating system Yosemite for a few days now. So far not too bad. It hasn't crashed or frozen up the computer.

I have a few complaints. The feature by which you can search your computer, called Spotlight on a Mac, has been totally redone and now sucks. Maybe I can figure it out, but as it's configured now I can't find anything in my computer. It's set up to search everywhere and sometimes it goes off searching the internet, sometimes it opens up Systems Preferences, the place on a Mac where you do all your settings. Why, I don't know.

Meanwhile I can still search the computer using a feature that searches everything in one file folder, called Finder. You can quickly show the whole computer as one file folder, then type in what you're looking for in the upper right window and hit Enter.  The only problem with that, as this screen shot shows, is that it also searches my backup drive where there are multiple copies of every file.

Another thing I don't like about Yosemite is that Image Capture, a program that comes with a Mac, which I always used to use to download photos from my camera or iPhone and was quick and easy to use, doesn't work on Yosemite, so I'm having to use iPhoto to download photos. iPhoto is the rudimentary photo editing program that comes on the Mac. It's fine for downloading photos but I don't like it because it makes multiple copies of every photo that goes into it and then hides them all over the computer, taking up vast amounts of space.

Apple had notified me several times that the Yosemite update was available, but after reading some user reviews of it I'd balked, but finally decided to go with it because I'd been having trouble connecting to the scanner function of my four-in-one printer. I read somewhere that maybe I needed to update my operating system, but I now know that that wasn't the problem and I'll have to fix that the hard way, by looking up things and trying things, or buying a new printer. I was going to do that, because this printer has a lot of miles on it, but I can't do that because I just bought over $100 worth of printer ribbons last weekend and they don't work on the new printers. I was raised by people who went through the Depression and expected you to clean your plate off before you left the table.

Update: The little icon you can use to control the volume of whatever audio is playing has disappeared. In looking for ways to get it back I notice some of the options for which Toolbars you can display have disappeared, too. Oy.

Update: The little icon is back. Somehow a setting had changed. It was in a sub menu deep in the settings area and one  I had never seen before and may have been a new setting on Yosemite.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stars Upon Thars

Someone has assembled some of those statistically colored maps showing those corollaries between ignorance and its consequences. (Patrick Andenall has, an ex Republican who's written a book, Stupidparty: Math Vs Myth, that from the excerpts and articles he posts is informative and bitingly funny.

The South lags behind in many measures for a couple of reasons. It never caught up after the Civil War, when it was laid to waste economically; in part by the destruction of war and in part by the destruction of its agricultural based free and cheap labor economy. Then, after the war, Southern states neglected large parts of their populations -- African Americans and working class Whites -- failing to educate them or provide them with health care and other social services according to a conservative, Capital friendly ideology.

The irony is that the South has finally won. Through the Republican Party they have won the war of ideas. Democrats have adopted Reganomics. The map of the rest of the country will become more South like as public education is destroyed, wages stagnate and living standards decline everywhere, and as Democrats continue to vote like Republicans on economic matters and otherwise do the bidding of their ruling class masters.

Soon we'll all be like the Sneetches in the Dr Suess book, not knowing if we're better than our neighbors to the South, or North, or not.

Disclaimer: The color gradations on the maps might stay the same, though, if the south declines as fast as the rest of the country, which it well could. As Republican governors in old union dense industrial states like Wisconsin and Michigan eviscerate unions and drive down living standards and wages, the flow of industry to the South that's been going on for three decades will cease. And if you save up your whole life, never take any time off, if you're lucky enough to not be out of work for too long at a time as the economy shifts ever more to causal, precarious labor, you might be able to take a drive through there and see what poverty is really like.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Grisham Under Fire

New Mexico's 1st district congresswoman Michelle Grisham is coming under harsh criticism for a Facebook post about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before congress yesterday, in which she perpetuates the myth that Iran poses a nuclear threat to Israel and the world that isn't even taken seriously in Israel, where elections are underway and Netahyahu's speech was seen merely as a ploy to boost the Likkud Party's election chances and likely damaging to Israel's security. New Mexico political operative and commentator Jim Baca has posted a succinct, biting analysis of Grisham's comments on his Only In New Mexico blog that reads in part:

This is without a doubt the biggest bullshit statement I have ever....ever seen come out of a Congressional member who pretends to be a democrat but shows no inclination to act like one.  Never will I support her again.  Lujan is pandering for donations from pro Israeli PACs, the defense industry, and anti peace operatives.  It is nauseating.

Grisham's mealy-mouthed post attracted dozens of critical comments on her Facebook page. Usually what you read there are adoring comments from uninformed admirers who know nothing about Grisham except the self-promotional propaganda she puts out, but many people visited today to express their disgust at her not boycotting the speech as did NM senator Martin Heinrich. You might have to page down a little as it appears she's furiously posting things to try to bury her  Netahyahu post.

Grisham attended the speech with an Albuquerque rabbi in tow, heightening the aura of blatant pandering she's created.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


This a screen shot I took of my cell phone as I was passing the New Mexico Port of Entry, or weigh station, in Gallup last night when I was coming back from Holbrook.

I've signed up for a bypass system that can run on a cell phone, tablet or dash mounted monitor. I downloaded their "app" last week and entered my US Dot number and truck license plate and even a photo of my truck into the system of a company called Drivewyze. They are hooked into the state DOT computers of whatever states they've made arrangements with so far. It doesn't work in Arizona, for example. I go past an Arizona weigh station every night, although by the time I get there it's almost always closed. All of New Mexico weigh stations are always open. We are very unusual in that regard. Florida does it, and there's a Virginia weigh station on I-95 south of Washington, DC that's always open, but in most states they close most of the weigh stations at night, opening up various ones on sporadic nights to keep truck drivers honest.

For 15 or 20 years there's been another bypass system, Prepass, which uses transponders mounted on truck windshields. These are private companies that have made arrangements with each state. Prepass covers pretty much the entire country. I started seeing articles and ads about this new one, Drivewyze, maybe six months ago. It has arrangements with about 40 states, I think. It uses the cellular network and GPS positioning. I get a warning sound and screen two miles before I get to the weigh station, then about a quarter mile before the off ramp to the weigh station I get either the bypass signal or get an indication to pull in.

Each state sets it's own "bypass rate." Around 90 or 95 percent of trucks that are using the system are usually given a bypass signal. Most of the big trucking companies use Prepass, and I had a Prepass transponder in my truck at most of the big companies I worked for. States can flag companies and give them a lower bypass rate if they've been having safety problems, which I suppose means the've had a lot of wrecks and undergone a safety audit.

And a state can flag individual trucks for more frequent pull ins. I got on California's shit list once and was getting the red light at every single open weigh station I came to. California is hard on truckers. They still have the 55 mph truck speed limit and for example I got two tickets out there in one year, around 2009, and they sent me and my copany a nasty letter saying if I got one more ticket I was kicked out of California. The company just stopped giving me California loads.

When I was on their weigh station shit list I'd get a red light, pull in and stop on the scales, them I'd sit there a minute or so, while they were looking things up on the computer, I suppose, perhaps calculating how long I'd been driving by seeing where I'd gone though the last weigh station, then they'd flash the sign on for me to pull around in back and bring in all my paperwork. I'd be given some level of inspection, I, II, or III, either a check of my log book and registration, or that plus a cursory truck inspection, or I'd get the 'you're going to be here awhile while we go over everything' level. That includes all the paperwork, the logbook, your safety equipment like triangles and fire extinguisher, and a thorough truck inspection where they get under the truck on a creeper or have you pull into a garage with a pit, if they have one, and check all your brake adjustments and look over the brake shoes and check the hubs for grooves and check all the brake lines and air chambers for leaks and all of it. They almost always find one or two or a few things to write you up for.

I was driving an old Freightliner and I wasn't paying much attention to it's mechanical condition, mainly because of Prepass. I was with Arrow out of Tulsa, a flat bed company, which is kind of a more laid back kind of trucking anyway, more informal, and I was driving lots of miles and kind of enjoying trucking. I had a refrigerator and knew of food co-ops and organic groceries all over the country, and I was jogging every other day and I'd discovered podcasts and audio books and I was just driving and listening to podcasts and books and staying out on the road all the time. I used to joke, "Why should I inspect my truck? DOT will inspect it for me and let me know what's wrong with it, then I'll call the company and they'll send someone out to fix it and I'll take a nap."

But when California caught up with me it wasn't fun being delayed and given the 3rd, 2nd or 1st degree at every open weigh station. I was doing a lot of back and forth between Los Angeles and Portland or Seattle at the time and it's probable that you're going to pass two or three open weigh stations as you come out of Los Angeles and drive up through the Central Valley.

I was on California's shit list for six months or so and only got off it because the time came for the company to trade that old truck in. They gave me a load going to Tulsa where I was moved into a brand new Kenworth and could go back to bypasing scales. It's the truck, and the company, they track; it's usually the same driver in the same truck all the time, although the tracking of individual drivers is probably coming, or may be here, with all the camera technology they're using now and with the facial recognition technology they have now.

It's of course much to my benefit now to maintain as good of a safety record as I can. My log book is always up to date and I take somewhat meticulous care of my 2007 International and spare 2006 Freightliner, which makes good economic sense, too, and it helps calm my nerves. I do pre and post inspections, take care of little things right away, and get the trucks serviced frequently.

But it will be nice if I get a lot of bypass signals. For one thing, it will save me several minutes, and I'm on tight time schedule. And it's just nice to not have to go into a weigh station. When you roll over the scales they're watching you, looking your truck over, calling your record up on the computer. Nothing good can happen at a weigh station, I've been known to say, only bad things. But god bless all the handsome, virile, charitable, good Christian DOT officers who are keeping our country safe, and just doing their jobs.